Deaf student graduates with a magna

Today's Philipine Daily Inquirer carries the story of Ana Kristina Arce, 23, who graduated magna cum laude from the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB), with a Bachelor in Applied Deaf Studies, specializing in Multimedia Arts.

One of the things she points out is that persons who are deaf prefer to be known as 'Deaf', with a capital 'D', particularly with reference to the Deaf as a community. Indeed, she goes so far as to say that the widely used term 'hearing impaired' is offensive. She also rejects the term 'deaf-mute' as deaf persons are rarely mute, ie, voiceless.

I have highlighted parts of the article and added some [comments].

Ana Kristina Arce

Deaf student graduates with a magna

Feisty 23-year-old proves nothing is impossible

By Tina Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:29:00 11/28/2009

MANILA, Philippines— When Vilma Macasaet-Arce was pregnant with her middle child, doctors found out that the second-time mother had contracted German measles.

“I was warned by my doctor that there was a very slim chance of giving birth to a normal child,” she said. “I was told I had an option to abort the baby,but I decided to push through with my pregnancy and just prayed to God to help me cope in the event that my child would have a disability.” [Abortion is illegal in the Philippines. How could Mrs Arce have been offered this 'choice'?. Thank God she didn't listen to the doctors in question.]

Last month, Ana Kristina, who was born deaf, tucked in her belt a magna cum laude from the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB), where she graduated with a Bachelor in Applied Deaf Studies, specializing in Multimedia Arts.

“I wasn’t expecting to be a magna cum laude. But as I reflect on it, I believe that the Deaf can achieve things and I’m happy that I was able to prove that. I hope other Deaf students would follow suit,” said Ana, now 23, who was assisted by a coworker and a former teacher as her sign language interpreters during the interview with Inquirer.

Ana didn’t show signs of deafness until she was 18 months old.

“I caught her placing her ears near the television screen,” said Vilma, a freelance public relations consultant. “Maybe she was wondering why she was seeing something on the screen but couldn’t hear anything.”

Vilma said she initially felt devastated after doctors confirmed her greatest fear. But she said she was lucky to have been surrounded by supportive friends. “I also went to a counselor to help me cope,” she said.

Vilma said she eventually had to quit a 9 to 5 job to be with Ana most of the time.

At first, Ana seemed like a normal kid because she reacted to noises.

Once, Ana attended a friend’s birthday party and joined her fellow kids in a stop-dance contest.

“Naturally, the hearing children refrained from dancing when the music stopped, leaving Ana the only one moving,” her mother recalled. “I called her attention and that was when she stopped dancing. She did not cry or show signs that she felt awkward. She just casually walked toward me, still smiling.”

Ana admitted she used to be saddened by the communication barrier when she was younger.

I felt stuck when I communicated with hearing people who did not know how to sign. [I share this frustration, even though I have some Sing Language. However, I find it difficult to 'read' Sign Language.] I also used to feel insecure when I couldn’t do things others could do, like sing,” she said.

Ana said she also experienced discrimination from her classmates when she was in another college where Deaf and hearing students were integrated in class.

I found out that we (Deaf students) were excluded in meetings and group projects. I tried to show my hearing peers what I could do, but they never gave me a chance to prove myself to them,” she said.

I thought that hearing peers were understanding and had big hearts, but I was disappointed. They thought I would not be able to understand and communicate with them,” Ana added.

Vilma saw the need for her to study sign language in order to understand and communicate better with her daughter.

“Fortunately, DLS-CSB offers a sign language program, but I’m just on the first level. I’m not that good, but in our family, I’m the most proficient,” she said.

My husband Ramon knows a bit (of sign language) while Ana’s two siblings, both boys, know how to sign the alphabet,” she added. “Early on, I made them understand that they had to adjust to her, although I was told by a psychologist that we have to treat Ana like any normal child because she might become spoiled, which she is, especially as far as her dad is concerned.”

Convenient tools
Ana said she is thankful that modern technology has made communication with hearing people a lot easier for the Deaf.

For interviews, it’s essential that I have a sign language interpreter. But most of the time, I use e-mail communication, SMS or text, or I would have pen and paper with me,” she said.

I think the cell phone is also a most helpful and empowering tool for Deaf people,” her mom added.

While studying poses a big problem for most differently-abled people, schooling for Ana was a breeze. For this, she gave credit to her parents who have been very supportive.

Her parents enlisted her in different schools—both special and regular—to check if any of these would suit her needs.

“Like most hearing parents of Deaf children, they felt the only way for me to survive was if I learned to speak. So they enrolled me in different oral schools where I had to wear hearing aids and learn how to lip read,” said Ana, who admitted that adjusting to these schools did not come easy.

“I was always asking around, trying to look for a better school for her,” her mom added, since Ana was a very driven and passionate person.

Upon graduating from primary school, her parents enrolled her at the Philippine School for the Deaf where sign language is used as a medium of communication.

Adjustment
“Ana quickly adjusted and started doing well in her academics. I saw how happy she was there,” Vilma said. On top of receiving several awards, she emerged as the class valedictorian of her batch.

In her senior year, Ana transferred to a private school for the Deaf where she also finished with academic honors.

She said she was glad to have gone to DLS-CSB for her college education, because the school provides an environment that makes Deaf people feel welcome.

She emphasized that the DLS-CSB’s School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies or SDEAS, a department exclusively for Deaf students where Filipino Sign Language is used as a medium of communication, catered well to their needs.

Ana explained that her course basically teaches one about Deaf culture—about their language, how Deaf people live, how they can face the challenges living with the greater hearing community, how they can communicate and how we can advocate.

Despite the increasing awareness on people with special needs, Ana lamented that misconceptions about the Deaf prevail.

She said the terms “hearing impaired” and “deaf-mute,” which are often used to refer to them, are offensive.

“Most people call us deaf-mute but we are not mute. We are simply deaf but can’t talk because we do not hear what other people say,” she explained, adding that they prefer to be referred to as Deaf, with the capital D.

She also appealed to TV networks to put closed captions even in one of their news programs and for other business establishments to be Deaf-friendly by understanding and addressing their needs.

Wanting to become a painter when she was kid, Ana said her inclination toward the arts led her to take up the course and pursue special training in multimedia arts.

Right after graduation, she was hired as an artist at the DLS-CSB’s marketing and communications office, of which she is the only Deaf staff member.

“I have so much support from my coworkers because they are aware of the Deaf culture. It’s also proof that Deaf and hearing people can work together even though the means of communication are different,” she said.

“It’s the first time that they had a Deaf employee here and it’s a learning experience for everyone,” she added.

Ana said she could only wish that other Deaf people would be as lucky as her.

I hope parents send their deaf children to school. Even though they are deaf, they should still be educated,” Ana said. “I also wish more companies would open their doors for Deaf people and allow us to show our talents and potentials to be part of their organizations.”

According to Giselle Montero, director of the DLS-CSB SDEAS’ Center for Partnership and Development, it is the role of the school to encourage and explain to the firms that employing Deaf people is possible.

“We want to prove to the companies that the Deaf can perform as well as the others; they just have to give these people the opportunity to shine,” Montero stressed. “And we also remind our students to strive hard because they will be hired not out of pity, but because they have the skills and something to share.”

Dreams
Ana said she dreams of working with the World Federation for the Deaf, a nonprofit organization, which she admires for advocating Deaf rights.

I want to be part of the group someday because it tries to become a bridge between the Deaf community and the greater hearing population,” she explained.

Her limitations also did not stop her from pursuing her other interests, including horseback-riding.

According to her mother, Ana started attending riding classes when she was in high school.

Ana took pride in saying that her riding teacher was very proud of her equestrian skills.

“My teacher and classmates were impressed because they said I was able to follow instructions faster and better than some of my hearing classmates,” she said, her eyes glowing as she animatedly narrated her riding experiences.

An avid reader, Ana said she looks forward to be one of Inquirer’s Read-Along readers one of these days.

She said she wants to inspire other Deaf students to love and appreciate the value of reading and to make parents understand that they need to introduce and help their Deaf children appreciate the value of reading and how it can empower them in their academic needs.

Ana also received a community service award during her graduation for volunteering in various programs in and out of the school, including teaching Deaf kids in a Pasig City parish and in relief operations for Tropical Storm “Ondoy” victims.

Warm response
Ana said she was scared as she was going up the stage to deliver her speech.

“What if people won’t listen?” was the first thing that came to her mind. “I saw people talking among themselves and not paying attention.”

“But when I started signing, everyone stopped talking, some curious at how I was going to do it. I even saw one boy, who was initially playing a PSP. He set aside his toy and listened to me. The teachers were crying as they listened to my speech,” she recalled.

But what touched Ana most was the response of the audience after delivering her speech. They applauded her, not by clapping their hands, but by raising their hands, with a slight shake.

“Everyone did the Deaf clap and I felt so inspired,” she said.

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